Case Study: Landmark Mathura Rape case judgment 1979

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Mathura Rape Case 1979

Landmark Mathura Rape case judgment

1.  Mathura; In Tukaram v. State of Maharashtra AIR 1979 SC 185, popularly known as Mathura rape case, apex court held that the fear which the 375(3) speaks of is negatived by the circumstances. The court held that the victim’s failure to appeal to companions and her conduct in meekly following the constable (accused) and following him to have his way to the extent of satisfying his lust amounts to consent for the sexual intercourse.

Sedition – Legal Provisions and Case Laws

Mathura, an 18-year old Harijan orphan girl was called to the police station on an abduction report filed by her brother at the police station- Desaui Ganj in Maharashtra on 26th March, 1972. When they were about to leave the police station, Mathura was kept back at the police station in the late hours of the night by one of the constables, Ganpat, who was on duty. She was taken to a toilet and raped by Ganpat. Then another constable, Tukaram, molested and tried to rape her, but being too heavily drunk did not succeed. It was alleged that the two constables, while on duty, had bolted the police station from inside and plunged the place into darkness.

The Session Judge acquitted the accused, on the ground of tacit consent, of the charge of rape for sexual intercourse between Ganpat and Mathura at the police station.
On appeal, the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) reversed the finding of Session Judge and found Ganpat guilty of rape and Tukaram guilty for molesting the woman. The High Court rightly distinguished between ‘consent’ and passive submission’, and held that mere passive or helpless surrender of the body and its resignation to the other’s lust induced by threats or fear can’t be equated with desire or will, nor furnish an answer by the mere fact that the sexual act was not in opposition to such desire or volition.

However, the Supreme Court reversed the finding of the High Court. Allowing appeal the apex observed that Mathura was subjected to no fear of death or hurt, which may have led her to submit to the act that there were no marks of injury on her person, which showed that the whole affair was a peaceful one and that the story of stiff resistance having been put up by the girl was totally false. It further that Mathura was not alone when Ganpat ordered her to stay and she could have resisted and appealed to her brother: her conduct in meekly following Ganpat and allowing him to have his way with her to the extent of satisfying his lust in full, made them to feel that the consent in question was not a consent which be brushed aside as passive submission.

The judgment of the Supreme Court was widely criticized both inside and outside Parliament as an extraordinary decision  sacrificing human rights and a slander (disgrace) on women under the law and the Constitution. There was considerable public resentment and strong protests, by social scientists, jurists, judges and scholars in general, and women organisations in particular against the verdict. Taking a serious note of the rare degree of sensibility of public criticism of the and its failure to safeguard the rights of the innocent victims of rape provisions relating to law of rape as stated earlier were extensively amended in 1983 vide Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 43 of 1983 to nullify the effect of the Supreme Court’s verdict in Mathura case.


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